President Trump is well-known for his Twitter tirades. But a recent tweet, where the president may have casually admitted to breaking the law, may spell curtains for the controversial Commander-In-Chief.
I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 2, 2017
On December 1st, Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about phone calls he made to Russia last year. While Flynn previously told the FBI that he hadn’t discussed sanctions, new information shows that he asked Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to “not escalate the situation” after the outgoing Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia. Trump fired him in February, claiming that it was because of a “breach of trust” between Flynn and the Vice President.
A day after Flynn pleaded guilty, Trump said on Twitter that he “had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.” While the tweet may seem innocuous, it suggests that Trump knew Flynn was guilty of lying to the FBI when he privately told former FBI Director James Comey, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” during the Flynn investigation.” If Trump knew that Flynn had broken the law when he told Comey to stop investigating him, this means Trump committed obstruction of justice.
After the tweet was published, his legal team responded to the resulting public outcry by saying that Trump didn’t write it. Top White House officials told the Washington Post that Trump lawyer John Dowd had written the tweet, and Dowd said that he”drafted” it and sent it to the White House Social Media Director to publish. White House aid Kellyanne Conway also provided an “alibi” for Trump, saying that she was with the President “on Saturday, all day.”
But some of the facts cast suspicion on the White House’s account of the matter. When asked to produce a draft, Dowd changed his story to say that he had “dictated it orally” to the director. And legal experts expressed doubt that Dowd, an experienced lawyer, would use the phrase “plead guilty” when the correct past tense of the phrase is “pleaded guilty.” Dowd has also refused to explain whether or not Trump saw the tweet before it was published. Walter Shaub, former director of the U.S. Office of Governmental Ethics, bluntly tweeted, “Dowd’s explanation to CNN makes no sense.”
It’s unclear yet whether Trump could actually face legal consequences for his apparent obstruction of justice. Dowd claimed on December 4th that “the president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer.” Susan Low Bloch, a law professor who was involved in the 1998 Bill Clinton impeachment trial, says that the “majority view” among legal scholars is that a sitting president cannot be criminally charged. However, she continues, it’s entirely possible to “impeach and remove him with possible criminal prosecution.” There would be legal precedent for such an impeachment, as obstruction of justice was one of the charges during Nixon’s impeachment proceedings.
At the time of publication, Trump has been lying low on Twitter, sending only four tweets over the last two days. The tweets have also been more positive than the President’s usual tweets. It’s unclear whether the President is censoring himself or if his legal team has advised him to tone down his tweeting. But, at the very least, the tweet is a legal liability for the already embattled president.
Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the path of California’s wildfires. I encourage everyone to heed the advice and orders of local and state officials. THANK YOU to all First Responders for your incredible work! https://t.co/g9y9PkB352
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2017
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